Friday, June 19, 2015

Play On by Michelle Smith | Review

Play On by Michelle Smith | ReviewPlay on by Michelle Smith
Published by Spencer Hill Press on April 14th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 296
Format: Paperback
Source: BEA, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.

Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma's flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius, she's also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there's something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek--he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.

As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa's pain, it forces him to look beyond the façade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn't everything--maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.

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I’d heard good things about Michelle Smith’s novel, Play On, so I went in with pretty high expectations.  While it wasn’t all I’d hoped it would be, it definitely grabbed my attention and kept me entertained for the few hours it took me to read it.  This is a quick read that was actually a lot deeper than I thought it would be.

Play On is full of southern charm, boys in baseball pants, romance, and secrets.  It’s a contemporary lovers dream.  I knew from the start that I was going to like it.  Austin Braxton is the star pitcher for his high school baseball team.  He’s also a true southern gentleman.  When he sets his sights on Marisa Marlowe, she has no clue what she’s in for.  Austin was a total sweetheart and he was willing to do whatever it took to get Marisa to fall for him.  He was born and bred in the south and he was all about taking care of his mom, treating a lady right, and playing baseball.  Marisa, on the other hand, was new to all of that.  She was born and raised in Maryland and she did not know what to do with Austin.  They were super cheesy together but adorable at the same time.

The baseball aspect was done well.  It was not overdone and it was easy to understand for anyone who might not be so into baseball.  I love sports books but sometimes it’s just too much for me.  That was not the case with Play On.  It didn’t dominate the story but it was also a very important aspect that couldn’t be ignored.  I was able to appreciate how much baseball mattered to Austin and his small-town but also focus on the romance as well as the deeper stuff going on with Austin and Marisa.

I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m going to be a bit cryptic here but Marisa was definitely hiding some things from Austin.  I had some guesses but I was way off.  Her secrets were dark and heartbreaking.  She was able to present herself as a happy, carefree teenager but that was just a facade.  As Austin and Marisa got closer, her secrets came to the surface and they definitely tore me apart.  It’s hard not to feel for Marisa and everything she is going through.  It helped that Austin was a complete sweetheart through it all.

The romance between Austin and Marisa was a bit too cheesy for my tastes.  I was born and raised in the south and let me just tell you, I never met a guy who talked like Austin.  He was just a bit too perfect!  I really wanted to see more of his flaws, especially since Marisa clearly had some.  I would have been able to appreciate him just a bit more if he ever did something wrong.  Maybe that’s just me though.

Overall, Play On won’t top my list of favorites but it’s certainly worth a read.  Any book that can get me to tear up as many times as this one did definitely deserves to be checked out!

What others are saying about Play On:

Book Rock Betty’s review: “If you like sweet sports romance, give this one a shot!”

A Reader of Fictions’ review: “At the outset, I struggled with the dialect, but ultimately the wonderful messages and adorable romances made Play On a book that I’ll happily endeavor to push on all of you.”

Polished Page Turners’ review: “All of the elements come together nicely to create a great story that is neither too light or too heavy.”

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater | Review

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater | ReviewThe Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #2
Published by Scholastic on September 17, 2013
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...

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Maggie Stiefvater has never suffered from second book syndrome and that is still the case with The Dream Thieves. I was surprised to find myself enjoyed The Dream Thieves even more than I enjoyed The Raven Boys. This book truly took things to the next level.

The hunt is still on for Glendower but this time there are new players in the game and Glendower isn’t the only one being hunted.  Ronan’s ability is worth more than he ever could have known and he’s only just learning how it works.  There are people out there who know about the ability and would do whatever it takes to take control of it.  Not only that, Ronan is also learning that he may not be the only one who possesses the ability to take things from dreams and he starts to wonder what exactly has been taken from dreams and what is real.

The characters really start to change in The Dream Thieves.  I honestly wasn’t sure who I liked anymore.  Gansey was still Gansey but he starting being a lot wiser and more introspective.  Adam changed the most and I wasn’t impressed with the changes.  His anger started coming out a lot more and he was downright rude to Blue and his other friends.  I still felt bad for him because of his history and how it affected him but it was still no excuse.  Blue finally started to see that she wasn’t being fair to herself or to Adam and I was proud of her for that.  The prophecy about her true love really started to come into play in The Dream Thieves.  Blue is a strong girl but there were times when she broke down and I loved her even more for that.  Then there was Ronan.  I didn’t love him in the first book but I sure do now.  That boy is so twisted up inside.  I felt horrible for everything he’d been through but I was so happy to see how things were starting to change for him.  He showed the  most growth and development of anyone in The Dream Thieves.  The glances into his past also helped bring me around to see his side of things.

The story went places I never expected it to go.  I haven’t been able to predict a single thing about this series.  Every little detail somehow ties together into the bigger picture.  Readers can tell that everything is leading up to something big but I have no clue how the story will get there or what’s going to happen once it does get there.  Also, it’s impossible to tell who is good and who is bad and who does bad things just because they have to.  Each and every character is so complex and has a story all their own.  Good luck trying to figure anything out about this story or the characters.

Overall, The Dream Thieves continues the epicness (new word!) that is the Raven Cycle.  I’m excited to dive into Blue Lily, Lily Blue and see where Maggie Stiefvater takes Blue and her boys next.

What others are saying about The Dream Thieves:

The Streetlight Reader’s review: “The magic of The Raven Boys was lost in this book and the characters I had come to love were no longer present in this book.”

Starlight Book Reviews’ review: “While I missed the heaviness of the first book, it was still appropriate given the focus on Ronan and his progression and revelations.”

Wrapped Up In Books’ review: ” I highly recommend reading it one sitting (or as few as possible) so you can completely immerse yourself in the world and the writing.”

Friday, December 26, 2014

Sinner (Wolves of Mercy Falls #4) by Maggie Stiefvater | Review

Sinner (Wolves of Mercy Falls #4) by Maggie Stiefvater | ReviewSinner by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: Wolves of Mercy Falls #4
Published by Scholastic on July 1, 2014
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 357
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

A standalone companion book to the internationally bestselling Shiver Trilogy.

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole's story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole's darkest secret -- his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel's life. Can this sinner be saved?

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I’m not usually excited when I hear that an author is continuing a series that has already ended.  That was not the case with Maggie Stiefvater and Sinner.  Sinner is a standalone companion novel to the Wolves of Mercy Falls series featuring everyone’s favorite bad boy, Cole St. Clair.  Who wouldn’t want to read this?

This truly is a companion novel to the Wolves of Mercy Falls series.  Cole is the focus of Sinner and it’s not set in Mercy Falls.  Sure, you get a glimpse of some of the Mercy Falls characters (such as Sam and Grace) but they only play a minor role in the story.  Everything is all about Cole and Isabel this time around.  Since they were two of my favorites from the original series I was more than happy with this set up.

Cole is a self-destructive nightmare who decides it would be a good idea to sign up for a reality TV show that is known for pushing it’s stars over the edge.  He’s got a lot of people in his life who want to see him succeed but he still has a lot of people who want to see him fail.  Honestly, it’s hard to tell which side of the spectrum Cole himself is on.  Cole’s life has always been messed up and adding the whole wolf bit in only pushed him further.  There are times when you can see that he’s trying to change but it’s not often.  He’s still got this inner bad boy who just wants to screw things up.  That includes his relationship with Isabel.

Isabel is a strong female character, just like all of Maggie Steievater’s female characters.  Isabel was always one of my favorites from the Wolves of Mercy Falls series because she was strong with sacrificing her vulnerability.  Her past seriously messed her up but it made her into a fabulous woman.  She and Cole had many issues they had to work through in Sinner but I loved seeing how they had both matured and wanted to work through these issues.  Although, not always.  They definitely still had some communication problems at times.

Reading from both Cole’s and Isabel’s points-of-view allow readers to see how alike the two characters are.  They are both a little volatile, very outspoken, completely messed up, and quite honestly, in love with each other.  To truly appreciate their relationship though you do need to have read the previous three Wolves of Mercy Falls books.  Otherwise it might seem a little bit too fast.

The writing is typical Maggie Stiefvater and by that I mean amazing.  Even if her stories completely sucked (which they totally don’t) her writing would keep bringing me back anyway.  Since the story itself isn’t all that action packed, the writing helped make up for it.

Overall, Sinner is the exception to the rule of continuing finished series.  I love how Maggie Stiefvater ended Cole and Isabel’s story.  I am a completely satisfied reader and I think other fans of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series will be too.

What others are saying about Sinner:

Not Yet Read’s review: “We’re all a little bit broken and this novel lets you see those beautifully broken bits about the characters and how they strive towards mending themselves and how more often than not you need to allow others in to help with the mending.”

The Cait Files’ review: “Cole and Isabel are electric and the story evoked nostalgia and a whole host of emotion.”

Alexa Loves Books’ review: “Sinner was all I could have asked for, and then some.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Blog Tour: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers | Review

Blog Tour: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers | Review

Blog Tour: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers | ReviewMortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #3
Published by Houghton Mifflin on November 4, 2014
Genres: Historical Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

picadillyblueWhere do I even begin?  I didn’t care much for Annith in the first two books and I was nervous that I wouldn’t love Mortal Heart as much as Grave Mercy or Dark Triumph because of that.  I could not have been more wrong.

Annith is just as awesome as Ismae or Sybella, just in very different ways.  I think that’s one of the reasons these books are so awesome.  Each character brings something new to the table.  Annith is a little too obedient at first but it’s quickly clear that she has a mind of her own and she’s going to follow her own instincts.  She’s smart and feisty and I did not see that coming. She’s very guarded and she expects very little from people.  That’s why Balthazaar takes her by surprise.  He wants to protect her and she can’t figure out why.  All she knows is that she is drawn to him from the first moment they meet.  And let me tell you, I can’t blame the girl.  Balthazaar is my favorite of the three male love interests in this trilogy.  Beast and Duval are awesome but they can’t hold a candle to Balthazaar.  Once you read Mortal Heart, you’ll know what I mean.

The story is a lot faster paced than the first two books or maybe it was just that I loved the characters so much that I couldn’t stop reading.  There was still a lot of politics in the book but not quite as much as the first two books.  The politics are extremely interesting though.  I’ve never been a fan of them but this series is just so well done that I find every little thing about it fascinating.

Also, the cameos were beyond perfect and I loved seeing Beast, Sybella, Ismae, and Duval again.  I didn’t remember everything from the first two books when I first started Mortal Heart but things quickly came back to me as I read.  It also helped that the stories are all overlapping.  Some of the things that happened in the first two books haven’t actually happened yet and so it’s refreshing to be able to read about them again.

Overall, it’s hard for me to put into words my love for this series.  It’s not often I read a trilogy and love every book but that was the case with this one.  I can’t recommend this series enough and if you’ve already read the first two, rush out and get this one as soon as possible.

What others are saying about Mortal Heart:

Waking Brain Cells’ review: “A fitting end to a grand trilogy, I can’t wait to see what LaFevers has for us next!”

Good Books & Good Wine’s review: “Readers who like their trilogies to have breathtaking endings, kick ass heroines, self contained but connected stories, and expansive character development paired with intricate world building would do well to pick up Mortal Heart as well as it’s predecessors, Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph.”

Read Breathe Relax’s review: “This final book did an amazing job of wrapping up all the stories, and I think Annith is my favorite leading lady yet.”

Robin-Pushing-Tree-281x300 About the author:

Robin LaFevers was raised on a steady diet of fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and 19th century poetry. It is not surprising she grew up to be a hopeless romantic.

Though she has never trained as an assassin or joined a convent, she did attend Catholic school for three years, which instilled in her a deep fascination with sacred rituals and the concept of the Divine. She has been on a search for answers to life’s mysteries ever since.

While many of those answers still elude her, she was lucky enough to find her one true love, and is living happily ever after with him in the foothills of southern California.

In addition to writing about teen assassin nuns in medieval Brittany, she writes books for middle grade readers, including the Theodosia books and the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series. You can learn more about those books at www.rllafevers.com.

Where you can find Robin:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Tumblr

Giveaway!

(1) One winner will receive a rustic arrow necklace, a leather bound notebook and a hardcover of MORTAL HEART! US Only.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson | Review

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson | ReviewI'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Published by Dial Books For Young Readers on September 16, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell

Jude and her brother, Noah, are incredibly close twins. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude surfs and cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and divisive ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as an unpredictable new mentor. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world. 
 
This radiant, fully alive, sometimes very funny novel from the critically acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

picadillyblueI’ll Give You The Sun is Jandy Nelson’s highly anticipated sophomore novel.  With my love of her debut novel, The Sky Is Everywhere, I had supremely high expectations for I’ll Give You The Sun.  To be completely honest, my expectations were probably even a little unrealistic.  However, Jandy Nelson definitely delivered and you completely met my expectations and more.

I’ll Give You The Sun is told in a unique way.  Each chapter is told from either Jude or Noah’s point of view.  However, not only does it switch points of view, it also switches from past to present.  Jude’s chapters are about the present and Noah’s chapters are about the past.  It’s an interesting way to tell their story and after reading the book, it’s really the only way that could possibly work.  It’s also very obvious to readers who is narrating each chapter and whether or not it’s in the past or present.

Jude and Noah are twins who couldn’t be more different.  Jude is a bit of a conformist, doing whatever it takes to fit in.  Noah is the opposite.  He doesn’t care what people think of him as long as he likes himself.  At least, that’s how it is at first.  When you switch from the past to the present you realize that the twins have kind of switched roles.  Jude is now the unique one who doesn’t do things to please other people anymore.  As for Noah, he is almost unrecognizable as the boy he used to be.  Every unique aspect of him is gone.  It takes almost the whole of the book to find out what exactly happened to the twins to cause these changes.

The twins are the focal characters of the story and for a while I had trouble connecting with them.  I honestly thought about giving up on this one because I wasn’t sure how I felt about Jude or Noah, past or present.  Jude came across kind of bitchy all the time and Noah came across a bit whiny and immature at first.  However, as the story progressed, new people came into each of their lives and helped them grow and develop.  The addition of these new people in each of their lives also helped bring them back together.  Their stories were so interwoven it was sometimes hard to see how the two of them could ever have such a rift between them.  Their bond always showed through no matter how they outwardly felt towards each other.

I’ll Give You The Sun is a story of family.  At it’s center is the story of Noah and Jude and what happened to tear them apart.  However, the twins weren’t the only ones affected by what tore them apart.  It affected their whole family and throughout the course of the book their family is torn apart and put back together again, in a new, not necessarily better or worse, way.  Also, I’ll Give You The Sun shows that maybe you can choose to add members to your family but that you can’t ever get rid of the originals.

Jandy Nelson’s lyrical writing style is showcased in I’ll Give You The Sun.  Part of my love for The Sky Is Everywhere was for Jandy Nelson’s writing and I knew I would read this one regardless of the subject matter.  That being the case, the writing didn’t overshadow or take a backseat to the story of Noah and Jude.  Also, I mentioned above that I had trouble connecting to the characters.  The writing really helped me move past that.  I honestly felt that I would be missing out on an amazing story if I did not finish something with such beautiful writing.  And I was right.

Overall, I’ll Give You The Sun is really just one book I feel that everyone should read.  My review will never do it justice.  All I can say is that I feel like readers will be missing out if you don’t give this one a chance.  I’ll Give You The Sun has definitely earned a permanent place on my favorites shelf.

P.S. I feel like I left some things out of my review but I just figured I should probably stop now so you can get your hands on a copy.

What others are saying about I’ll Give You The Sun:

Teen Librarian Toolbox’s review: “For me, this is one of the best books I have read in 2014.”

Forever 17 Books’ review: “I can’t wait for everyone to meet and fall in love with these characters as much as I did.”

Jenna Does Books’ review: “In the end, I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is an excellent story about coming of age, finding yourself and falling in love.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Blog Tour: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper | Review + GiveawaySalt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
Published by Little Brown on September 23, 2014
Genres: Historical Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: BEA, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder--and the one boy who can help change her future.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

picadillyblueSalt & Storm, Kendall Kulper’s debut novel, is truly unlike anything I’ve read.  It’s historical fantasy brimming with witches, magic, curses, romance, and mystery.  I couldn’t put it down!

Salt & Storm starts off very slowly.  Don’t let that stop you from continuing with the story though.  The writing is heavy, very reminiscent of other historical fantasy novels.  That’s not to say that it’s not gorgeous though because it definitely is.  I remember the style of writing being pitched as similar to Laini Taylor’s and I definitely saw that comparison from the start.  Kendall Kulper does have a style all her own though that readers will get used to quickly and come to love over the course of the book.

The story itself is fascinating.  I’ve always been a fan of stories about witches and Salt & Storm is going to be added to my list of recommendations when it comes to those types of books.  These aren’t your typical witches though.  The Roe witches each have very distinct abilities.  Avery’s grandma’s magic focuses on emotions, Avery’s mom’s magic also focused on emotions but specifically those of love and affection, and Avery’s own gift was to be able to interpret dreams, although sometimes it seemed more like a curse.  Also, the witches were held in very high esteem on the island.  Sure, people were intimidated by them but they also sought them out for protection and aid.

The romance was very much a slow burn type of romance, my absolute favorite.  There were times at first when I feared it would veer into instalove territory but that was not the case.  It was more that Avery and Tane had an instant attraction as well as a kind of magical pull.  Tane was good for Avery.  He opened her eyes to how sheltered she was and gave her a new way of looking at life.  She really changed as a person as she got closer to Tane and he made her a lot more likable in my eyes.

Overall, Salt & Storm won’t be for everyone, that’s for sure, but I highly recommend it.  It’s a captivating story that may take longer to read than other books but it’s worth it!

What others are saying about Salt & Storm:

Love Is Not A Triangle’s review: “I enjoyed the history in Salt & Storm and the book overall.”

Good Books & Good Wine’s review: “Salt & Storm made me feel heavy and weighted down and I am totally okay with that.”

Maji Bookshelf’s review: “Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book and I was overall disappointed in everything about it, from the plot, character development, to the romance.”

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About the author:

Kendall Kulper writes historical fiction with a fantasy twist for teen readers and knows more about nineteenth century whaling than she ever imagined. Her debut YA novel, SALT & STORM will be published by Little, Brown September 23, 2014. She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history and literature in 2008 and spent several years as a journalist before deciding to write full-time. She grew up in the wilds of New Jersey and now lives in Boston with her husband and chronically-anxious Australian Shepherd mix, Abby.

Website/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads/Tumblr

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway

2 winners will receive hardcover copies of Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper.  US only!

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Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour!

Week One:

9/15/2014- Novel Novice– Interview

9/15/2014- The Infinite To-Read Shelf– Review

9/16/2014– All Things Urban Fantasy– Guest Post

9/16/2014– No BS Book Reviews– Review

9/17/2014– Such a Novel Idea– Interview

9/17/2014– Katie’s Book Blog– Review

9/18/2014– IceyBooks– Interview

9/18/2014– Reading YA Rocks– Excerpt

9/19/2014– Wishful Endings– Guest Post

9/19/2014– Casual Readers– Review

 

Week Two:

9/22/2014– Supernatural Snark Interview

9/22/2014– About to Read– Review

9/23/2014– The Cover Contessa– Guest Post

9/23/2014– Imaginary Reads Review

9/24/2014– Fire and Ice– Guest Post

9/24/2014– Once Upon a Twilight– Review

9/25/2014– Tales of the Ravenous Reader– Interview

9/25/2014– The Best Books Ever– Review

9/26/2014– Two Chicks on Books– Guest Post

9/26/2014– Tynga’s Reviews– Review

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Blog Tour: Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner | Review + GiveawayCan't Look Away by Donna Cooner
Published by Scholastic on August 26, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey's sister is killed in an accident -- maybe because of Torrey and her videos -- Torrey's perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn't know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey's internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there's Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

picadillyblueCan’t Look Away, Donna Cooner’s sophomore novel, shows promise for her as a writer.  I found it to be an extremely quick read that captivated me from start to finish.

Torrey’s story was one that is very relevant to todays teens.  Torry has a great online presence through her Youtube beauty channel as well as Facebook and Twitter.  When her sister is hit and killed by a drunk driver, Torrey’s personal life takes center stage and she’s forced to take a step back from the internet to evaluate her life and where she goes from there.

Surprisingly, very little of the story centers on Torrey’s online life.  After the accident, Torrey takes some time to reevaluate things and she’s not sure how to approach her fans online.  However, that doesn’t stop her from reading articles about herself as well as looking at comments on her old videos or on blogs.  Many people online blame Torrey for her sister’s death and very few of the comments are supportive.  Add to that that Torrey has just moved across the country, started at a new school, and has to deal with some rather bitchy popular girls and she really doesn’t have a lot of joy in her life.

What joy she does have comes in the form of some unexpected friends.  Torrey’s cousin and neighbor, Raylene, is a wonderful source of comic relief.  She is completely quirky and 100% okay with who she is.  She cares very little for popularity and she doesn’t let people hurt her feelings.  She does what she wants and she encourages Torrey to do the same thing.  Raylene’s cat, Stu, is pretty much another character.  Stu cracked me up.  There was also Luis who was not exactly who Torrey needed to be hanging out with to gain popularity.  He works at his family’s mortuary and he plans to one day take over the family business.  Torrey is warned off him from the start but for some reason she just can’t resist him.  Luis is another person who does what he wants.  He’s smart, funny, and kind but he does have a bit of a mystery to him.  He brought out the darker side of Torrey but he helped her a lot with her sister’s death.

Torrey herself was not the greatest character for most of the book.  She was rather shallow and kind of self-centered.  However, it’s easy to forgive those things about her once you understand what she is going through.  What comes across as self-centered at first actually makes sense the more you get to know Torrey.  She’s hurt by her sister’s death and her parents have done very little to help with the grieving process.  She closes herself off from people so she doesn’t have to deal with her emotions.  It was heartbreaking how she blamed herself for her sister’s death.  They fought a lot (like any siblings at that age) but they never got the chance to make up and grow closer.  That hurt Torrey a lot more than she let on and she really was a much deeper character than I originally perceived.

My favorite part of Can’t Look Away had to be all the history and stuff surrounding el Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  When Torrey first finds out about the Day of the Dead she’s a little creeped out by it but as she learns more about it’s history and it’s purpose she becomes intrigued by it.  I’ve always been interested in the Day of the Dead and finding out more about it’s background definitely kept me reading.

Overall, Can’t Look Away has its flaws but is all around a great contemporary novel.  I’m definitely planning on checking out Donna Cooner’s debut novel, Skinny.

What others are saying about Can’t Look Away:

Rather Be Reading YA’s review: “Can’t Look Away is fairly predictable in its storyline, but the Youtube angle, the character of Luis and,Día de los Muertos give it a little more of an unusual feel.”

Nick’s Book Blog’s review: “Can’t Look Away was a decent YA contemporary novel that I tackled an issue that I didn’t know much about.”

Once Upon a Twilight’s review: “Torrey’s story will keep turning you pages.”

Cooner_5
About the author:

Donna Cooner was born and raised in Texas. She is a three time graduate of Texas A&M University. A former teacher and school administrator, she now teaches teachers and principals at Colorado State University where she is the director of the School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her two labs and a cat named Stu. She’s a big fan of chocolate and laughing (not necessarily in that order).

Donna is the author of over twenty picture books and was a founding member of the Brazos Valley Society of Children’s Bookwriters and Illustrators. She has also written children’s television shows for PBS and textbooks for future teachers. SKINNY is her debut novel for young adults.

To contact Donna try:  
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Giveaway:

5 winners will receive finished copies of Can’t Look Away!  US only!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

Week One:

8/18/2014- Such a Novel Idea– Interview

8/19/2014- A Book and a Latte– Guest Post

8/20/2014- The Book Belles– Review

8/21/2014- BookHounds YA– Interview

8/22/2014-Fictitious Delicious Review

Week Two:

8/25/2014- Shayna Varadeaux Books & Reviews– Review

8/26/2014- The Cover Contessa – Guest Post

8/27/2014-Katie’s Book Blog- Review

8/28/2014- Swoony Boys Podcast– Review

8/29/2014- Tales of the Ravenous Reader– Interview

Friday, September 27, 2013

Blog Tour: How To Love by Katie Cotugno | Review

Blog Tour: How To Love by Katie Cotugno | Review

Blog Tour: How To Love by Katie Cotugno | ReviewHow To Love by Katie Cotugno
Published by Harper Teen on October 1, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 389
Format: ARC
Source: BEA, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

Before:
Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he's never seemed to notice that Reena even exists until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.

After:
Almost three years have passed, and there's a new love in Reena's life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena's gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she's finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn't want anything to do with him, though she'd be lying if she said Sawyer's being back wasn't stirring something in her. After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.

How To Love is by far one of the best debuts I’ve ever read. I truly had no idea what to expect from Katie Cotugno and I was completely blown away.

How To Love almost fits into the new adult category rather than young adult. It’s a much more mature story than normal YA books and I loved it. Younger readers can certainly get away with reading it (although there is drug use/alcohol use/sexual content) and older readers such as myself can truly enjoy it. While Sawyer and Reena are both in their teens, they are forced to deal with some much more adult issues and it was refreshing to read such a realistic story. There’s college, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and so much more packed between these pages. Katie Cotugno tackles everything head on and doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff. Everything is handled so well, especially the sexual content, and I would love to see more stories like this one in the future.

The story is told from Reena’s point-of-view alone but I really felt like I got to know Sawyer just as well I got to know Reena. Reena is a smart girl. She’s funny (in a very sarcastic way), she’s kind, and she’s definitely a good girl. Sawyer is the opposite of Reena in almost every way. He’s definitely a bad boy. He’s got drug problems, he’s in a band, he’s living in a run down place with multiple other guys, and he’s not good for Reena. That doesn’t stop the two from falling completely in love with each other. This was definitely a case of opposites attracting. Personally I thought Reena and Sawyer were perfect together, at least the second time around.

The story is told in alternating chapters; before and after. It’s easy to see how their relationship isn’t really all that healthy in the before chapters but both of them have changed drastically since then. They’ve matured (especially Reena, having to raise a baby), they’re smarter, and they can see the truth of their relationship. The story is a very unique one and it completely drew me in. There were secrets between Sawyer and Reena that I just wanted to know and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew every last detail. I was captivated from beginning to end.

The last thing I want to mention about How To Love is the writing. It’s gorgeous. I don’t know any other way to describe it. Even if the story had completely sucked I would have kept reading just for the writing. However, seeing as the story was amazing, the writing was just the icing on the cake.

Overall, just go read How To Love. Please. Even if you’re not a contemporary fan, I really think everyone can find something to love about this one. I am highly anticipating Katie Cotugno’s next book.

What others have to say about How To Love:

Nick’s Book Blog’s review: “With How to Love by Katie Cotugno, I found a simple yet beautiful story that made me really feel for the characters.”

Enticed By Books’ review: “Anyway, How To Love was a well written book, but my disinterest in the characters and the storyline along with the poor execution of that said story was what made this book a thumbs down read for me.”

Swept Away by Books’ review: “All in all, How To Love wasn’t exactly what I imagined myself getting into, but I did love it all the same!”

About The AUTHOR
 
Katie Cotugno went to Catholic school for thirteen years which makes her, as an adult, both extremely superstitious and prone to crushes on boys wearing blazers. She routinely finds herself talking about the romantic endeavors of characters on TV shows as if they actually exist in the world.
Katie is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared in The Broadkill Review, The Apalachee Review, and Argestes, as well as on Nerve.com. Her first novel, HOW TO LOVE, is due out from Balzer + Bray on October 1st, 2013.
 
The great loves of Katie’s life include child’s pose, her little sister, and mozzarella and honey sandwiches. She lives in Boston (and in sin) with her boyfriend, Tom.
 
You can follow Katie via her: Website | on Twitter | Goodreads
Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jessica Darling’s It List: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection by Megan McCafferty | Review

Jessica Darling’s It List: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection by Megan McCafferty | ReviewThe (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection by Megan McCafferty
Series: Jessica Darling's It List #1
Published by Little Brown on September 3, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 223
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Move over, Dork Diaries! Jessica Darling, star of Megan McCafferty's bestselling Jessica Darling series for adults, is back in a hilarious new series perfect for tween (10 to 14) girls.

I hadn't even gotten to homeroom yet and I'd already discovered five hard truths about junior high:

1. My best friend had turned pretty.
2. She didn't know it yet.
3. It wouldn't be long before she did.
4. That knowledge would change everything between us.
5. And there wasn't a thing I could do about it.

It's the first day of seventh grade. Is Jessica Darling doomed for dorkdom?

New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty's hilarious series opener will have you laughing, cringing, and cheering for Jessica Darling as she learns that being herself beats being popular, pretty & perfect any day.

 

The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection is a fabulous start to Jessica Darling’s It List series. Fans of the original Jessica Darling series will love this glimpse into pre-teen Jessica’s life and mind!

Jessica Darling’s It List series is very much middle grade. The writing is simple, the humor is aimed for younger readers, and the characters are not very mature. However, it totally works in this case. It’s set in junior high and Jessica Darling and her friends are exactly how you would expect them to be. Megan McCafferty really captured the feel of junior high with this book.

Jessica Darling is probably one of the most awkward characters I’ve ever read about. It’s probably what makes me love her so much. She recognizes her awkwardness and while it does bother her sometimes, she embraces it most of the time. She’s remarkably self-assured for a pre-teen girl. She cares very little about what everyone else thinks and worries only about what she thinks. She’s a great heroine for young readers to look up to.

Her friends aren’t so awesome. Bridget, Manda, Sara, and Hope are quite a crew. Bridget starts off as a nice girl but that quickly changes once she realizes how pretty she is and how she can use it to her advantage. I didn’t like her at all. Manda and Sara were even worse. They considered each other friends but they were terrible to each other. And everyone else. Hope was the only one I liked and I felt like there was very little of her in the book. I look forward to learning more about her throughout the rest of the series.

The story is nothing special. It’s Jessica’s first year in junior high and let me tell you, she goes through some crazy stuff. There’s friend troubles, boy troubles, cheer team, woodshop, and so much more. I’ll just put it this way; everything that could go wrong, did. It’s a quick read that definitely made me think of my own days in junior high.

Overall, The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection is perfect for fans of the original Jessica Darling series or for readers looking to start it. Middle grade readers should greatly enjoy this one and I definitely recommend checking it out!

What others are saying about Jessica Darling’s It List:

Alluring Reads’ review: The IT List was funny, sweet and incredibly authentic for the age group.”

Mostly YA Lit’s review: It’s a prequel that delivers many of the things that I feel like I probably needed to know at age ten to twelve, but it’s also so wonderful as an adult fan of the series to be able to revisit these characters, and to see how they got their roots.” 

Reading the Best of the Best’s review: The snarky, hyper observant, opinionated Jessica Darling we first met in Sloppy Firsts is back but this time as a soon to be 7th grader and she’s just as fantastic, except younger!”

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout | Review

Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout | ReviewCursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by Spencer Hill Press on September 18, 2012
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Dying sucks
...and high school senior Ember McWilliams knows firsthand. 

After a fatal car accident, her gifted little sister brought her back. Now anything Ember touches dies. And that, well, really blows.

Ember operates on a no-touch policy with all living things--including boys. When Hayden Cromwell shows up, quoting Oscar Wilde and claiming her curse is a gift, she thinks he's a crazed cutie. But when he tells her he can help control it, she's more than interested. There's just one catch: Ember has to trust Hayden's adopted father, a man she's sure has sinister reasons for collecting children whose abilities even weird her out. However, she's willing to do anything to hold her sister's hand again. And hell, she'd also like to be able to kiss Hayden. Who wouldn't?

But when Ember learns the accident that turned her into a freak may not've been an accident at all, she's not sure who to trust. Someone wanted her dead, and the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she is to losing not only her heart, but her life.

For real this time.

Jennifer L. Armentrout continues to impress and enthrall me. She has quickly become one of my favorite authors and while Cursed is not her best, it’s still a great story.

Ember wasn’t always an outcast at school. In fact, she used to be popular. That all changed the day she died and her little sister brought her back to life. Ever since then everything Ember touches dies. Ember knows she will never be able to get close to anyone so she shuts herself off from the world. All except her best friend, Adam. Adam stuck with Ember through it all even though he didn’t know what exactly changed with her. Then Hayden Cromwell showed up and changed her life all over again. Suddenly Ember finds herself, her little sister, Olivia, and their mother living with a stranger who has taken in a bunch of other “gifted” kids. What exactly does he want with the kids though?

Once again I adored Jennifer L. Armentrout’s writing and I found myself hooked from the very beginning. She has a way with words that makes it impossible for readers to put the book down. Her writing style is simple, easy to understand, and super fast-paced. Her writing is one of the best things about her books, in my opinion.

Another great thing about Jennifer L. Armentrout’s books is the romance. She knows how to write sexy guys and steamy scenes. While Hayden didn’t compare to Aiden from the Covenant series, he was sweet, funny, smart, and like I said, sexy. He was one of the better characters in the book. He was well-developed and I found his story to be very interesting.

Ember, on the other hand, was not one of the best characters. I was really disappointed with her as a character. She just seemed very contradictory. At the beginning of the book all she can talk about is how much she loves her little sister and how it’s her job to take care of her. However, about 60 pages into the book Olivia just seems to disappear. She plays almost no part in the story from then on out. I really thought she was cute and I loved her relationship with Ember so I was really sad that she didn’t play a bigger role. Adam also disappeared not too far into the story. The whole thing with Adam really upset me and if I had been in Ember’s place I would not have let it go like she did. She barely put up a fight and it made me think that she really wasn’t a great friend. She was also kind of a bitch. Because of her curst she shut herself off from everyone and she did that by being nasty to them. I expected a lot more from her.

The story itself was not that impressive but still interesting. I guessed who the bad guy was very early on but I did not guess his motives. That is what kept me reading. No matter how hard I tried to piece things together I just couldn’t. I was really surprised by the end of the story and it made the book worth it. Jennifer L. Armentrout definitely knows how to write suspense.

Overall, Cursed will greatly appeal to Jennifer L. Armentrout fans. While I doubt it will be a favorite of her books, readers will still enjoy it.

Looking for more reviews of Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout?